Pesto Tortellini Salad with Chicken features cheese tortellini tossed in a creamy pesto sauce with sun-dried tomatoes and chunks of chicken.
This Pesto Tortellini Salad with Chicken recipe is a total weeknight savior. Most of the ingredients are pantry-friendly, and if you use fresh tortellini, this dish can be on your table in about 10 minutes! And, you are going to love it. Tortellini tossed in creamy pesto sauce with chicken for protein and a zing from the cherry tomatoes.
Why Make This Recipe
- Only 6 ingredients! And so fast to make. Really, it’s a stretch to even call it a recipe.
- Travels well. In fact, this is perfect buffet food. Easy to make ahead of time, then serve for a crowd. Delicious at any temperature!
- Easy to make vegetarian! The chicken in this recipe really is optional. You can leave it out for an excellent vegetarian main course or side dish. Or try my Tortellini Caprese Salad recipe instead!
- Pesto: I used my Simple Lemon Basil Pesto for this recipe. It's easy to make, and so much more delicious than store-bought. But if you don't have the time or the basil, feel free to use whatever brand of pesto you like!
- Sun-dried tomatoes: In France, we can get these half-dried tomatoes (semi-séchée) which I just love. If those are available in your region, please try them with this recipe. If not, regular sun-dried tomatoes are fine. Or, replace with halved cherry tomatoes. Those work too!
- Chicken: You can easily leave this out of the recipe for a vegetarian dish. Or, replace with lightly sautéed tofu cubes.
- Mayonnaise: My go-to mayonnaise brand is Hellman’s Mayonnaise (known as Best Foods in the western U.S.), but you can use whatever you prefer (or make your own!).
If garnishing with pine nuts, toast 2 tablespoons pine nuts in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Watch carefully, as pine nuts burn quickly! Stir frequently, and turn off the heat when pine nuts are golden brown.
Drain 1 cup of sun-dried tomatoes, then pat dry with a paper towel and cut into ½-inch chunks.
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, then add tortellini, cooking according to package directions. While tortellini is cooking, stir ½ cup pesto and ¼ cup mayonnaise together in a large bowl.
Drain tortellini well, then add to bowl with pesto mayo. Stir in tomatoes and chicken.
Garnish with pine nuts and shredded parmesan cheese, if desired.
🧐 Recipe FAQs
Yes, absolutely! It’s totally fine to make this a day or two ahead of serving. Toss it together and keep it refrigerated. You can serve it cold, at room temperature, or warm. If the pasta sauce dries out a bit, you can toss it with a little more pesto before serving. Or combine a tablespoon of pesto with mayonnaise and stir that in.
I wouldn't recommend freezing this dish as the texture won’t be the same when you defrost and then reheat it. A big soft pasta like a tortellini just isn't very freezer-friendly.
👩🍳 Expert Tips
Make your own mayonnaise. It’s actually quite easy, and tastes so much better than store-bought versions. You can replace the mayonnaise and the pesto together in this dish, by making my Pesto Aioli as a substitute. That would take this really over the top!
Perfect use for a leftover rotisserie chicken. I don’t know about you, but I frequently have half a rotisserie chicken waiting in the fridge, not nearly as appealing on Day 2. Shred the meat off the bones and make this recipe. Or, check out this list of fantastic leftover chicken recipes for even more ideas.
Or, when you do have leftover chicken meat from a rotisserie chicken or from any recipe, just shred it and freeze it in an airtight container. That way, you always have chicken on hand for this recipe or for my Chicken Soup with Rice and Lemon! Or, try these White Chicken Enchiladas—a great way to use leftover chicken.
Don't overcook your tortellini! Pay attention to the package instructions, and drain tortellini immediately when they are done. Overcooked tortellini quickly becomes bloated and soggy.
Got leftover pesto? How about trying this 20-Minute Orzo Pesto Salad next?
Other Delicious Pasta Recipes
Love pasta? Meeeee toooooo! You may want to check out some of my other favorite recipes featuring pasta.
- Smoked Salmon and Asparagus Pasta
- Creamy Spinach Artichoke Pasta
- Black Garlic Pasta
- Orzo Pasta Salad with Black Beans and Corn
- Shrimp Pasta with Tomatoes, Feta, and Olives
- Creamy Orzo Chicken with Mushrooms
- Angel Hair Pasta with Olives and Capers
- Summer Orzo Salad
- Red Lentil Bolognese
If you try this Pesto Tortellini Salad recipe, I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment below—I read them all, and your feedback is invaluable to me. And please follow along on Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook or subscribe to my newsletter. I'd love to inspire you with more delicious, healthy, and seasonal recipes!
- 1 cup (about 7 oz.) drained sun-dried tomatoes
- 18 oz. refrigerated cheese tortellini or 9 oz. dried cheese tortellini
- ½ cup pesto
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- 2 cups (8 oz.) cooked chicken, shredded or chopped
- 2 T. toasted pine nuts, optional, for garnish
- Shredded parmesan cheese, optional, for garnish
- If garnishing with pine nuts, toast pine nuts in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Watch carefully, as pine nuts burn quickly! Stir frequently, and turn off the heat when pine nuts are golden brown.
- Drain sun-dried tomatoes, then pat dry with a paper towel and cut into ½-inch chunks.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, then add tortellini, cooking according to package directions.
- While tortellini is cooking, stir pesto and mayonnaise together in a large bowl.
- Drain tortellini well, then add to bowl with pesto mayo.
- Stir in tomatoes and chicken.
- Garnish with pine nuts and/or shredded parmesan cheese, if desired.
Cooking Tortellini: Careful to not overcook your tortellini—pay attention to the package instructions, and drain immediately when they are done. Overcooked tortellini quickly becomes bloated and soggy.
Make-Ahead: You can make this dish a day or two ahead of serving. Toss it together and keep it refrigerated. You can serve it cold, at room temperature, or warm. If the pasta sauce dries out a bit, you can toss it with a little more pesto before serving. Or combine a tablespoon of pesto with mayonnaise and stir that in.
Make Your Own Pesto: If you have some extra time, this recipe is fantastic with a homemade pesto. For a recipe, try my Simple Lemon Basil Pesto.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 565Total Fat: 38gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 26gCholesterol: 81mgSodium: 556mgCarbohydrates: 33gFiber: 2gSugar: 1gProtein: 23g
Nutrition information is provided as a general reference for users courtesy of the online nutrition calculator Nutritionix.